Everybody is a First Responder

The referenced article is on the long side. It covers the decreasing numbers of police and firefighters nationwide, and it does touch on the impact that will have on regional disasters. As police and firefighter numbers fall, officials urge disaster prep.

Firefighter numbers are falling because people are no longer volunteering. And volunteer firefighters cover most of the country.

“In most of the country, volunteers are the predominant workforce protecting the country,” Donahue said. “And so even during disasters, a lot of the help and work is done by volunteers.”

Of the nearly 30,000 fire departments in the U.S., about two-thirds are all-volunteer. Since 2015, the number of volunteer firefighters has fallen to 682,600 from 814,850, according to the National Volunteer Fire Council.

And expecting the federal.gov to fill the gaps is just insane. (“I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”) There is an interesting interview with a fire chief from St. Bernard Parish District Fire Chief Mike LeBeau about the post-Katrina response from FEMA. Virtually all of the help went to New Orleans.

So what does this mean in the event of a disaster? It means that 72 hour mark that the federal.gov used to talk about is unrealistic. It will be a week or two before you get help.

Barrington said states have been told to expect up to 72 hours for a federal response, but in some cases it will take days longer.

“We’ve learned through some of our exercises, through Cascadia, which was a national exercise, that maybe it’s more realistic to expect that help in a week and maybe two weeks,” Barrington said. “With those kinds of time frames, it’s very important that the citizens be able to have the resources available that they can survive and live for multiple days without help.”

Here’s a look at what it was like on Day 3, after Superstorm Sandy hit New York City. Consider that the people in New York had DAYS to prepare. New York City water is actually some of the best in the country, and yet people were relying on (very small stockpiles of) bottled water. Hint: You can drink tap water collected BEFORE the disaster strikes. And no, water does not go bad in any way, unless algae grows in it. (Store it in a dark place, or a dark container. And make sure you have enough stored.)

But back to the original article. ‘EVERYBODY IS A FIRST RESPONDER’

“We’ve kind of built up this mythology that somebody is going to be there and save you,” former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said. “And the person that saves you is maybe yourself or your neighbor.”

In parts of the country, ordinary Americans are learning about what disasters they can expect and how they should be prepared for the aftermath.

You’re an adult. Start taking adult responsibility for the safety of yourself and your family. Big Nanny is not going to wipe your nose after a disaster.

At this point it seems appropriate to include the Graham Combat Killhouse Rules.

6 thoughts on “Everybody is a First Responder

    • I’ve been trying to find an article from earlier this year (I think) about a fire department in which paramedics were at a disadvantage when it came to pay and promotions, and they couldn’t figure out while everyone was transferring out of the paramedic division and into regular fire fighting. I seem to recall there were also problems with shifts and then the other issues that show up when an organization is short-handed. Like too much overtime.

      But I can’t find it, so maybe I dreamed it.


      • My ex- worked for a mid-sized city at the administrative level in California. Circa 2002, the city decided that ‘1st Responder’ would become part of the job description of (I believe) all city employees. That ticked me off royally because it was no longer voluntary, it was mandatory. Just like that, with the stroke of a pen it became mandatory or face disciplinary action including termination. No additional training was provided in either substance or time to gain such training.

        My response was screw them, if something happens which warrants city-wide response, we are gone.

        Why did the city take such action? They were pretty hushed about it but I believe, and there is evidence to support, that because of ‘collective bargaining’, the costs became too great plus that the fire and police depts were riding rough shod over the city, that the city retaliated and set hiring limits, including temporary hiring freezes, in those departments.


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